Germany, France step up support to embattled WHO

By: AFP      Published: 08:08 PM, 25 Jun, 2020
Germany, France step up support to embattled WHO

Germany and France promised on Thursday to pay hundreds of millions of euros to the World Health Organization, which faces a US withdrawal over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The two European nations said their increased support was not aimed at filling funding holes left by the US absence, with German Health Minister Jens Spahn saying the impact of the pullout was still unclear.

"Germany remains a strong supporter and critical friend of the WHO," he told reporters as he stood next to his French counterpart Olivier Veran and WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"We are here to reaffirm the support of France and Germany," Veran agreed. 

It was the first high-level meeting at the agency's Geneva headquarters since mid-March.

The WHO is still reeling from an onslaught of criticism from US President Donald Trump, who accused it of mishandling the global coronavirus response and kowtowing to China.

Trump announced last month he would pull his country -- traditionally the WHO's largest donor -- out of the organisation.

Both the French and German health ministers, however, underlined the need for worldwide handling of such crises.

"I deeply believe... that we need a global response that only the WHO is in a position to provide," Veran said.

Spahn said the pandemic "shows us that an interconnected world needs global-level crisis management". 

"We need a strong, efficient, transparent and accountable WHO today more than ever," he said.

Mask donation

Spahn said his country would provide more than 500 million euros ($560 million) to the WHO this year, the "highest amount" ever.

Veran meanwhile said France would give 90 million euros for a WHO research centre based in Lyon, and 50 million euros more in additional regular funding.

France would also donate 100 million face masks to the WHO.

"We have to discuss within WHO and with the other member states, and with the US, how we will actually work and deal with possible changes," Spahn said, stressing that so far it remains unclear what impact the US announcement will have on the organisation's funding.

"We still want to be in touch with them and discussing with them how we can go on together, within the WHO."